For most, Disney World is a dream come true full of magic, wonder, and awe. Everyone has their own idea of this place including the staff however, not too many people hear or see this place from an employee’s perspective. Some days you may take a stroll with Mickey Mouse around the lush evergreens or meet guests with an unusual story. No two days are the same when you live in an enchanted Kingdom.
Kutztown University’s very own Bryanna Stipa was accepted into the Disney Internship program for her spring 2016 semester. The opportunities are endless and the experience is once in a lifetime. For a total of four months, she will learn the ins and outs of Disney and how to be successful in the working world. As a way of keeping the magic alive, the staff isn’t told their job until they go through the check in and orientation class. Since Bryanna Stipa has previous experience working in the food industry, she was placed in Animal Kingdom working at a place called Restaurantosaurus. Usually she works 40 hours a week, unless Disney is in “holiday time” in which case she works overtime, around 45 to 50 hours a week.
“You go through classes before you can start training. My training lasted three weeks until I was expected to know everything about the different positions. Other areas can take a week because they aren’t as demanding,” she said in an interview. As far as knowing the position goes, Bryanna is a jack-of-all-trades whereas most workers are trained in one specific area.
When she is at the front register, there are a variety of people she takes care of from all over the world. “There are a lot people who don’t speak full English, so the front end can be difficult. Some of us studied another language, so we try to use our knowledge and resources to the best of our ability so we can accommodate our guests,” Bryanna said. If needed, she also works in the kitchen where she handles small foods like fries, or makes salads. There are also strict safety rules associated with the kitchen and food handling. She says, “For example, burgers can’t sit out for more than four minutes and fries can’t sit out for more than three. Once they reach their limit, we toss them.” The last part of her job requires extensive cleaning at the end of every shift. Considering Bryanna works in a themed restaurant, she and the other workers have a hard time with cleaning because most customers disregard the closing times and the workers can’t start until everyone else is gone. Steel wool has become her best friend against grease and other difficult substances she cleans off from the day.
As if daily chores at work aren’t enough on her plate, Bryanna laughed before saying how easy it is to get terminated from the internship program. She has specific rules to follow both at her job, and at her apartment. She is usually at work 15 minutes before her shift starts every time. While working, the staff must always ask for permission to eat at the restaurant. If they don’t follow such rules they get a point against them. After three points, a staff member gets a reprimand, and after three reprimands they are termed, as she calls it. “People have been known to get termed for not asking permission to eat food that was not purchased, or food that will be exceeding its shelf life the next morning. It takes a toll on the restaurants as a whole because they are understaffed for a bit. Not too long after the people are termed, they have to replace the staff,” she said.
A whole apartment suite can be termed if one individual was underage drinking. Disney does not take things lightly, in fact they are known for molding their staff into the best people they can be. Through this, Disney can offer and guarantee pristine customer service.
As most can imagine, getting around the park can be difficult on its own. Bryanna uses her worker's ID and apartment ID to access certain areas in the park including the underground tunnels in a futuristic world called, Tomorrowland. One of the cool features in this area is how the trashcans have a strong suction power that pulls trash into a bag in the underground tunnels for easy clean up.
When she isn’t working, Bryanna spends her free days exploring the park as a tourist. She has already spent a lot of her paycheck on shopping, and activities around the park. Every night there is something new for the guests to see, whether it is a show or stunt. Bryanna has already seen Disney's Festival of Fantasy Parade several times and still has not gotten tired of the exaggerated characteristics and fire breathing animatronic dragon. She has even witnessed Tinkerbell soar over the heads of many guests along with fireworks exploding in bursts of magnificent lighted shapes over Cinderella’s Castle.
“The first thought that came to mind when I was walking around was how clean Disney is,” she said. There’s so many staff workers at all times to make this place run as smoothly as possible; especially considering this is supposed to be a haven for kids. The staff goes through a lot in order to “keep the magic alive” as she calls it. Each character is accompanied by someone who is specially trained for instances where a child may question the legitimacy of that character. These are also the people who convince the children that these characters are real. Out of the six weeks she has been there, Bryanna has not experienced any issues between the children and keeping the magic alive with the characters.
Although working in Disney seems like a dream job to some, it is hard leaving a family behind for four months. She misses out on a lot of family activities and chances to bond more with her friends and boyfriend. Bryanna says she keeps in touch with her family, friends, and boyfriend as much as she can during her free time. “Video chats make it easier, but it’s not the same when you’re trying to celebrate someone’s birthday or an anniversary and you can’t be there. I’ve tried coordinating delivery times so that when I send people gifts, they get there on time,” Bryanna says in the interview.
She does think that it will get easier to manage stress and the emptiness that comes with being apart from the people she cares about, as time continues. “Before I left for Disney, I was having second thoughts, but I always knew this would be a great opportunity for my future so I pushed through it,” Bryanna said. She hopes these last few months just blow by her so she can see everyone again.
Disney World is where people go to have wishes granted, and their dreams a reality. No one tells staff members about the cost of having your dreams magically come true until they experience loneliness in a foreign world on their own. It’s not all dreary and sad though; don’t forget that every princess and every pauper had to go through some rough times and even battle the darkest of demons before they could truly find happiness in their kingdom.